In this journey in the footsteps of the heroines of past and present like Donna Leon i will examine with you the way we tell stories about ourselves to ourselves — and, most important, the way we can change those stories into Heroine’s Journey stories which transform our business and personal lives.
Your story is your life. As human beings, we continually tell ourselves stories — of success or failure; of power or victimhood; stories that endure for an hour, or a day, or an entire lifetime. We have stories about our work, our families and relationships, our health; about what we want and what we’re capable of achieving. Yet, while our stories profoundly affect how others see us and we see ourselves, too few of us even recognize that we’re telling stories, or what they are, or that we can change them — and, in turn, transform our very destinies.
“It has all been rather accidental. The idea for her first book, Death at La Fenice (1992) came while chatting to the conductor Gabriele Ferro at the Venetian opera house. He was badmouthing the German maestro von Karajan for his fascist sympathies. “We started talking about killing von Karajan and I thought: ‘What a great idea for a murder mystery. I wrote Death at la Fenice as a joke. When I finished the book I stashed it away and forgot about it until submitting it for the Suntory prize in Japan. Somewhat to my consternation, it won and I was offered a two-book contract by Harper Collins. This meant, among other things, that I was compelled to write a sequel. I did and the rest is history. “I lucked out,” Donna Leon
Telling ourselves stories provides structure and direction as we navigate life’s challenges and opportunities, and helps us interpret our goals and skills. Stories make sense of chaos; they organize our many divergent experiences into a coherent thread; they shape our entire reality. And far too many of our stories are dysfunctional, in need of serious editing. First, I ask you to answer the question, “In which areas of my life is it clear that I cannot achieve my goals with the story I’ve got?” I then show you how to create new, reality-based stories that inspire you to action, and take you where you want to go both in your work and personal life.
Our capacity to tell stories is one of our profoundest gifts. The Heroine’s Journey approach to creating deeply engaging stories will give you the tools to wield the power of storytelling and forever change your business and personal life.
“Because I don’t want to be famous where I live. Nobody in Venice knows who I am. My neighbours know I’m Signora Leon. My friends know I write but they don’t read it. Nobody has any idea of the extent of the success”
What do I mean with ‘story’? I don’t intend to offer tips on how to fine-tine the mechanics of telling stories to enhance the desired effect on listeners.
I wish to examine the most compelling story about storytelling – namely, how we tell stories about ourselves to ourselves. Indeed, the idea of ‘one’s own story’ is so powerful, so native, that I hardly consider it a metaphor, as if it is some new lens through which to look at life. Your story is your life. Your life is your story.
When stories we watch in the movies touch us, they do so because they fundamentally remind us of what is most true or possible in life – even when it is a escapist romantic story or fairy tale or myth. If you are human, then you tell yourself stories – positive ones and negative, consciously and, far more than not, subconsciously. Stories that span a single episode, or a year, or a semester, or a weekend, or a relationship, or a season, or an entire tenure on this planet.
Telling ourselves stories helps us navigate our way through life because they provide structure and direction. We are actually wired to tell stories. The human brain has evolved into a narrative-creating machine that takes whatever it encounters, no matter how apparently random and imposes on it ‘chronology and cause – and – effect logic’. We automatically and often unconsciously, look for an explanation of why things happen to us and ‘stuff just happens’ is no explanation.
Stories impose meaning on the chaos; they organize and give context to our sensory experiences, which otherwise might seem like no more than a fairly colorless sequence of facts. Facts are meaningless until you create a story arond them.
By ‘story’ I mean those tales we create and tell ourselves and others, and which form the only reality we will ever know in this life. Our stories may or may not conform to the real world. They may or may not inspire us to take hope – filled action to better our lives. They may or may not take us where we ultimately want to go. But since our destiny follows our stories, it is imperative that we do everything in our power to get our stories right.
For most of us, that means some serious editing.
To rewrite your story, you must first identify it. To do that you must answer the question: In which important areas of my life is it clear that I cannot achieve my goals with the story I have got?
Only after confronting and satisfactorily answering this question can you expect to build new reality – based stories that will take you where you want to go.
Your life is the most important story you will ever tell, and you are telling it right now, whether you know it or not. From very early on you are spinning and telling multiple stories about your life, publicly and privately, stories that have a theme, a tone, a premise – whether you know it or not. Some stories are for better, some for worse. No one lacks material. Everyone’s got a story.
It’s difficult to describe the work of Donna Leon other than in superlatives. Her novels featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti of Venice, Italy, is an annual blessing, a fine series — one of the finest (see what I mean) in the mystery (or any) genre. It contains a puzzle at the core but at its heart is driven by Brunetti and a cast consisting of his family and co-workers, who are instantly memorable and unforgettable from book to book. Leon paints each story — each sentence, in fact — with a fine and careful brush; one never gets the sense of a novel being dashed off or hurried. Still, it is a pleasant surprise to find that EARTHLY REMAINS, the 26th installment of this quietly beloved series, is the best of a wonderful lot. Serious readers who are always looking for a new author or title are probably already familiar with Leon and Brunetti. There are few reading joys that equal cracking the binding of a new Leon novel and experiencing another meeting with Brunetti, his deep intellect and occasional wry humor, delivered in a quick line or two of observation as a quiet aside. If you have not experienced this world, so exotic and yet so familiar, you can pick up literally any volume in the series and begin a comfortable entry into Brunetti’s Venice. EARTHLY REMAINS, however, would be a superlative place to start.
And thank goodness. Because our capacity to tell stories is, I believe just about our profoundest gift. Perhaps the true power of the story metaphor is best captured by this seemingly contradiction: we employ the word ‘story’ to suggest both the wildest of dreams (it is just a story ……) and an unvarnished depiction of reality (okay, what is the story?). How is that for range?
The challenge? Most of us are not writers. That is what I intend to do here. First, explore with you how pervasive story is in life, your life, and second, to rewrite it.
Read more: Your Story is Your Life